History of the University of Tübingen

The University, founded in 1477, builds on more than five centuries of tradition. Key dates:


Founding and naming

Count Eberhard the Bearded (gov. 1445-1496), later Duke of Württemberg and Teck, founded the University in 1477. In the foundation document, the Count set out the University’s tasks:

[It shall] …help to dig the well of life, from which may be drawn constant consolatory and healing wisdom from all ends of the Earth to quench the ruinous fire of human stupidity and blindness…

Graf Eberhard im Bart


Where did the palm in the University logo come from?

After returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Count Eberhard the Bearded made the palm tree his personal symbol. Wooden pillars in the Burse, the University’s oldest remaining building, have carved palm trees in them, as well as the Count’s personal motto, which remains the University motto today:

"Attempto!" (Latin for: I dare!)


Great names

Many famous people have studied and worked at the University of Tübingen over the centuries:

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)

The philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer began his studies at the Evangelisches Stift seminary. Among his discoveries are Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion, describing the orbit of planets around the sun.

Wilhelm Schickard (1592-1635)

The astronomer and mathematician taught Hebrew and Astronomy at the University, and constructed the first mechanical computer. The Wilhelm Schickard Institute of Computer Science bears his name.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

The philosopher - once a student of Theology at the Evangelisches Stift - was one of the leading figures in the German Idealism movement. His works include “The Phenomenology of Spirit.” The Hegelbau bears his name.

Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843)

was a poet and scholarship holder at the Evangelisches Stift. The Friedrich Hölderlin Prize, awarded jointly by the University and the City of Tübingen, is named after him.

Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854)

was the main founder of speculative Naturphilosophie; he entered the Evangelisches Stift in 1790 and stayed until the completion of his degree. He left his mark on nearly all the sciences of the time.

Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862)

The poet had a scholarship to the Evangelisches Stift and later became a professor of German language and literature at the University of Tübingen. The Institute of Historical and Cultural Anthropology is named after him.

Friedrich List (1789-1846)

was an economic theorist. He was a professor of government administration in Tübingen and is considered the first German representative of macroeconomics. His efforts led to the founding of a school of government in 1817.

Eduard Mörike (1804-1875)

was a poet, storyteller, and translator. He studied Theology at the Evangelisches Stift and in 1852 received an honorary doctorate from the University of Tübingen.

Friedrich Miescher (1844-1895)

was a medical researcher. He discovered nucleic acid - the stuff of DNA - in Tübingen. You can visit his laboratory in Hohentübingen Castle.

Ferdinand Braun (1850-1918)

The electrotechnician, Physics professor, and Nobel Prize laureate is best known for the cathode ray tube, which he developed. He helped to establish the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Physics.

Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915)

The psychiatrist and neuropathologist spent part of his studies in Tübingen and later at a congress in Tübingen gave the first public description of the dementia which bears his name.

Ernst Bloch (1885-1977)

was a neo-Marxist. He is considered one of Germany’s most important 20th century philosophers. He taught at the University from 1961 and helped to shape the thinking behind the student protests of 1968.

Walter Jens (1923-2013)

was initially a professor of Classical Philology in Tübingen; in 1963 he took up Germany’s first Chair of Rhetoric, created especially for him.

Joseph Ratzinger (*1927)

The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a professor of Catholic Dogma in Tübingen 1966-1969. He played a leading role in the Second Vatican Council and was elected pope in 2005.

Hans Küng (1928-2021)

is a Schwiss priest and religious critic, who was a professor of Theology at the University of Tübingen until 1996. As a co-founder of the Global Ethic Foundation, he established the Global Ethics lecture series.

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (*1942)

is a researcher; she studied Biochemistry in Tübingen and completed her doctorate on genetics here in 1973. In 1995 she received the Nobel Prize for Medicine.